How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
Should I buy an older mobile home and remodel it?
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Mobile homes more than 20-years old often sell at a steep discount to their original price. So buying an older home and remodeling it—instead of paying the full sticker price for a new one—can be appealing. But here’s ten factors to consider when evaluating a used mobile home as a remodeling candidate:
1) Only a better quality mobile home is suitable for remodeling. The ones that were bargain models when they were built tend to have a shorter lifespan. Some begin to deteriorate, with significant problems, before they are 10-years old, and are just not worthy of the time and money you will invest in them.
How to tell which mobile homes are better constructed? Essentially, the ones that look more like a site-built home: with a higher-pitch roof and overhang, sturdy siding, and a ceiling of 8-feet or more where it meets the outside walls, for example. See our blog posts How can I tell if a mobile home is well constructed? and What is the right price for a used mobile home? to learn more.
The one exception to this rule is pre-1980 metal-clad homes. You know the ones, with the eccentric bay windows and wacky rooflines. They tend to be very durable, with one downside: a lack of insulation by modern standards. If you like that retro-modern look, there’s still older single-wide inventory to choose from out there.
Because many of these homes were built before HUD standards went into effect in 1976, there is also a wide variation in quality; but only the sturdy ones from this era have survived to greet the 21st century. Unfortunately, the low level of insulation means it will cost as much as 50% more to heat and cool than a site-built home of the same era or a newer mobile home.
2) Are you handy with tools and willing to devote most of your weekends and vacation time to a remodeling project? If not, and you plan on hiring contractors for most the work, then remodeling will likely not make financial sense when compared with buying a new manufactured home.
3) Buying a fixer-upper for a low price, then adding $10,000 worth of materials plus plenty of your own sweat equity, can get you a handsome home that will be comfortable and enjoyable to live in for years to come. It will be a great value for you, but not necessarily be a good investment in terms of resale. Mobile homes depreciate as they age, no matter what their condition. While a remodeled, upgraded older home will have increased value in the marketplace, don’t expect to make a nice profit if you sell it a few years later. Go to our blog post How can I tell the difference between a fixer-upper with potential and a money pit? for more details.
Yes, there are pros that buy, fix-up and flip mobile homes for profit. But they have years of experience and resource connections, along with the hard-knocks of a few flips that flopped already behind them. And if you believe any of the “get-rich-quick when you buy my amazing 7-step, can’t-fail mobile home investment video course”—well, good luck.
4) While a new manufactured home is a little more difficult to finance than a site-built home—and the term of the loan is typically shorter, along with a higher interest rate and closing costs—finding financing for a used mobile home through regular lenders is even more difficult. There are occasionally private lenders (often the seller of the home) that will finance your purchase, but not the improvements.
5) Very important: get the mobile home inspected by a professional home inspector to make sure you’re buying a fixer-upper project with “good bones”—and not bulldozer-bait. To find a qualified inspector, read our blog post How do I find a good mobile/manufactured home inspector?
6) If the mobile home that you plan to remodel has to be removed from its current location as part of the deal, get a price from a licensed mobile home mover/installer before negotiating the purchase. Moving a home even a few miles is an expensive and complicated process. A “free” older home that needs to be relocated is not really free. See our blog posts Can you move an older mobile home in Florida? and How much does it cost to move a mobile home?
7) Is the existing floor plan close to satisfactory? If you want to remove an interior wall to “open up” the space, it’s usually not a problem because only the exterior walls, and posts or walls along the marriage line of a double-wide, are structural supports for the roof. But rearranging the whole floor plan or moving a room with plumbing, like a bathroom or kitchen, will blow a modest remodeling budget.
8) If the mobile home you’re considering is in a park, be sure to review their restrictions on both remodeling and replacing a home before making your decision. There may be size restrictions (both minimum and maximum), design standards, and other issues to contend with. For example, some parks do not allow site-built additions.
9) You have probably seen one of the mobile home makeover TV shows. Our favorite was MTV’s Trailer Fabulous, with Johnny Hardesty. They focus primarily on cosmetic issues, and turn a dismal, battered mobile home into a designer showplace. Also, you get the impression that the work is big fun.
It’s not. And while a slice of your budget should be devoted to making the home look more appealing, the bigger part of the money typically needs to go for unglamorous things like roof repair or replacement, siding repair, caulking, replacement of older plumbing and light fixtures, and perhaps repair of a couple of soft spots in the floor. To learn about how to fix roof leaks, add insulation, repair flooring, stop air leakage, replace windows, and other improvements, we suggest getting a copy of Your Mobile Home - Energy and Repair Guide For Manufactured Housing, by John Krigger. You can also find helpful tips and resources at www.mobilehomerepair.com.
10) After you slog through the nitty-gritty list of repairs and start searching for creative ideas to make your remodeled home look like a page out of a design magazine, go to www.mobilehomeliving.org. Lots of before-and-after photos of mobile remodeling projects, and great design inspiration free for the taking.
See our blog post What are the most common problems with older mobile homes? for tips on what defects to look for when examing an older mobile home you are considering buying.
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